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race between two future presidents, james madison and james monroe, debating the most important issues that we talked about is a country, whether we should have a bill of rights, what kind of unions we should have and all of a sudden come you are in the next page and there is the first congress. i decided that i would read everything i could about this 1789 election. when i found that no one had ever written anything about it before, i decided i was going to tell the story. what many people don't know is that when george washington took the oath of office, 13 states were outside the union. north carolina and rhode island did not ratify the constitution because of their concern that it was missing a bill of rights. a guarantee of fundamental liberty. this was common for the anti-federalist. the common denominator of which james monroe was one was that they oppose the constitution. many of them came at it from different angles.
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some of them generally believed that you could not have a union in these different and diverse states. perhaps regional confederacy, but they didn't think that any government could ever be suitable for this entire continents. his objection to the constitution was centered around it is missing a bill of rights. while washington took the oath of office, two states, new york and virginia were agitating for a new constitutional convention. in the words of james madison and george washington, they were terrified at this prospect. they believed it would be infiltrated by enemies of the new government and that the constitution would be scrapped and done away with in that argument would be fractured, never ever to come together again. >> you can watch this and other programs at more from this year's roosevelt reading festival from the franklin the roosevelt presidential library and museum.
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mark huddle presents his book, "founding rivals: madison vs. monroe, the bill of rights, and the election that saved a nation". >> thank you very much, good morning. i am very pleased to be here with you. i hope you will be okay with the starting off with just a little bit of a reverie about libraries it is such a pleasure to be here. roy always world war ii "roi ottley's world war ii" requires the council counsel and work of archivists around the country. for those of us who revel in
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archival research, this is one being able to come here and see this place. there are those of us who trade archival experiences, like some people trade baseball cards. that is a measure ofnerdiness, but i am not ashamed. [laughter] i mention this because i think that obviously, the research libraries, teaching libraries, the archives, without these things, we cannot do our jobs. and i think that you can measure in many ways the help of higher education and the education project by the health of our libraries. we are in an extended period of scarce resources, the library budgets and institutions of
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higher learning are the first to be gutted in times of trouble belief that has been my experience. and it has an immediate impact on teaching and learning and research. it is important for us to come to places like this, to come to events like this. to celebrate the efforts of the roosevelt library and museum in their attempts to cultivate a culture. it really does mean a lot to me to be here and to participate. so i thought i would begin this book talk this morning with a short kind of description of the genesis of "roi ottley's world war ii." based on what i just said, it won't surprise you that it was the intervention of a very fine library and that put this
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project in motion in the first place. it was a random phone call to my office and an invitation to look at a small cachet of papers that had long been hidden in the university archives there. that created its it circumstances and helped to make this book a reality. now, when paul first told me that there was a small collection of otley papers in the archive company did not ring a bell. i remembered later that an article that i had been working on yours before i had used a biography that otley had written of the editor and publisher of the chicago dissenter, robert abbott. at the time, i really didn't have a clue who he was. and so i went over and i sat down in the archives reading room and i began to leak through
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a very small box of papers that was essentially comprised of a couple of scrapbooks and this unpublished manuscript. five minutes with the manuscript, and my job was on the table. what i was reading in my mind was remarkable. i worked my way through it, and then again, no connection, a completely random event, i got an e-mail from the university of kansas and a lady named nancy jackson who was wondering what i was working on. i picture the idea and look, we are all here. it has been a few years, but here we are. these are the sorts of stories that you hear when you are a graduate student. you know, somebody is working
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through cleaning out their house attic and i actually had a professor who was out walking with his wife one spring day. it was spring cleaning time and he was kicking through some trash that somebody had put on the side of the road and found this beautiful leather bound book. he picked it up and it was the diary of a civil war doctor. i will never forget the look on that professor's face as he told the story and he looked and said, it was like manna from heaven eventually he published that book. but for me it was because of the library and then also, the help of archivists dennis frank.
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they knew their collections. i don't know if they knew how important or interesting the work of otley was. in the context of what historians are doing in this field right now. but regardless, because of their interest, this book exists today. now, let me ask a question. has anyone ever heard of roi ottley before? >> you have, sir. and you as well. in what context? might i ask. >> [inaudible] >> okay. which made him a national celebrity. i call probably my favorite footnote. it is generally because of that
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book. published in 1943, i will give you a rundown of ottley's life. and how brinkley his experiences as a journalist and during world war ii, how they offer a very different vision and version of the conflict that we refer to in many ways as the good war. ottley's experiences highlight him of the divisions, some of the conflicts that were at the core of american society in this period as we mobilized to confront evil in the world. vincent washington ottley was born in 1906. his parents were both caribbean immigrants. his father, jerome, was from granada. his mother was from st. vincent.
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in a sense, it is classic immigrant tales. the father worked multiple jobs and took business classes at a local high school. beatrice worked as a domestic and a seamstress to make ends meet. eventually, jerome have accumulated enough hours to earn his real estate license. and within a few years he had parlayed that into a very successful property management firm in harlem. in other words, roy otley was a child of privilege comparatively speaking. his best friend was the future congressman, adam clayton powell junior. he ran the streets with wc handy
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junior. he wrote of watching mcgarvey parades from the roof of an abyssinian baptist church in early 1920s. he would eventually become an all city track star and one of the first black students at the university am aware he also began to learn the journalistic craft. of course, during the 1920s, harlem was in a renaissance in the heart of the jazz age. ottley was obsessed with musical theater. with the plays of broadway and the jazz music. in the 1930s, the years of the great depression, i think these were formative years for him. he came back from school to help his family.
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he got a job in the city of new york's welfare department. and witnessed first-hand the immense suffering of his neighbors. and he also started writing. he started doing music and theater reviews for the amsterdam news in harlem and he parlayed that eventually into a regular column that covered all aspects of harlem life, including, and especially, politics. harlem during those years was a sort of political hothouse. ottley was quickly sucked into the rough-and-tumble of the political life better. he was an active participant in the amsterdam news strike in 1935. he became very much engaged in labor issues in the 1930s. he covered the controversies surrounding the italian invasion
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of ethiopia. he participated in the congress. like so many americans that were taken ottley was radicalized but not a radical. he was asked to characterize his politics recently. and he reminds me of jackie robinson. he was a republican in the 50s. he did not confide the utopianism of left-wing politics. at the same time, circumstances dictated that he would be in contact with many of the major political figures and, of course, the broader circumstances the broader circumstances going on in his
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community. this is when he was at his most politically engaged. his politics were shaped by the popular front. this brought coalitional politics that united civil rights activists and organized labor and social uplift groups and the political left. >> eventually, the labor activism cost him his position at the amsterdam news. a freelance for a while. as so many writers and artists did during that period, he landed at the works progress administration federal writers project. the fwd. because of his local celebrity, his name popping up in the newspapers at least once a week, he was placed in administrative duties and placed in charge of
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the harlem branch, where he oversaw a remarkable group of writers that include ralph ellison and toward the west, richard wright for a short amount of time, his tenure at the project was controversial, to say the least. he had a management style that really rubbed people the wrong way. ellison and mr. wright, especially. he really hated the guy. and this is a kind of one-sided argument, unfortunately, part of the problem with doing this project was that ottley seems to have burned every piece of correspondence that he ever wrote. there are no papers outside of the small box at the college. you kind of have to rely on what other people are saying about
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him. and ellison and mr. wright took great glee in writing terrible things about him back and forth, as if they were passing notes in class. it was really the conservatives in congress that disliked ottley the most because of his connections with the fwd. in 1939, the harlem branch came under the scrutiny of congressman martin dees and his un-american activities committee in the house. he found himself soon without a job. as a side note to this, certainly his management style was brisk. he tended to play his cards close to the vest. there was no transparency in his decision-making. he was very interesting in the way he dealt with talented writers and artists are that i think one of the things that really upset people is that when he lost his job, on his last
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day, he snuck into the office and it's gone but with 35 boxes of the wpa papers that had been accumulated during his time there. he was responsible for the projects in those boxes, but he had written very little of the material himself. over the next 15 years, he then uses material whenever he felt like it. that really upset ellison, who saw his own words popping up in some of ottley's works. so there is a little -- you know, there's some good foundation for some of the problems that people have had. ottley was very connected, however, during this period. he had a lot of connections,
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especially in labor movement. he freelance a little. he became the publicity chief for the national office of the cio 1943 changed at all for him because of the book. the new world coming, which was subtitled inside black america. now, it seems to be pretty important in the publishing world. his press, houghton mifflin send review copies to literary critics on august 1, 1943. which just happened to be the same day that harlem exploded in one of the worst race riots of the year. suddenly, white america wanted to know what was happening with black americans and ottley's text was waiting for them.
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they became a literary sensation. he won an award, he won ainsworth award. eventually the book inspired the radio shows that he had mentioned, which won a peabody award in 1948. he was eventually awarded a rosenwald fellowship of $2500, which gave him the financial freedom to do what he really wanted to do, which was to cover the war in europe. so ottley went out in search of a correspondence position. but he was fiercely individualistic. he did not want to write for one of the black newspapers who were hiring at this time, and he parlayed his labor connections into a position with a new york labor newspaper called pm.
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it only existed for i think about four years. it was founded by a man named ralph intersite. he was on the verge of seeing "fortune" magazine and life magazine go belly up. it was ingersoll who stepped in and made those magazines were. he was a hard-core liberal and a democratic party partisan especially the support for franco and the fascists in spain. he was looking for a way to get out from under his thumb and gm became the vehicle for
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expressing his liberal vision for what a journalistic enterprise should look like. and antiracism was at the core of the position. so they hired roi ottley is one of their war correspondents and sent him off to europe. this was really kind of a singular position. there were very few publications that hired black writers, even in the copy editing departments, let alone sending them off to europe, which was considered a plus position at that time. because ottley was writing for a predominantly white newspaper, it gave him entry into certain halls of power in europe that the black press did not have. and frankly weren't really interested in.
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black writers covered the jim crow military. they wanted to provide their leaders with what readers wanted, which was tories about black soldiers and about what was happening in europe. it is a little bit dicey to say that there was an audience, at least in the black community, for ottley's phrase into colonial politics and the like. but this is a man who was determined to write about things that really interested him. that is a long digression, but i wanted to give you a context for the manuscript that is the heart of his world war ii book, the "roi ottley's world war ii", the so-called lost diary. it is actually from july of
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1934. it contains some street diary entries, but also copies of correspondence, notes for articles, reproductions for material that appeared in the pittsburgh courier and other periodicals of the day. now, i would like to also stress. i see this being the two important elements to the story that is told in the broader context of the light. his story and by now, those of us that do civil rights histories and are writing about american rights relations, they are really struggling to find ways to conceptualize and to kind of be. eyes that history. the textbook history of the civil rights movement began in
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1954 with brown v. board of education decisions. there is this broader history, this brought history and a body of work that pushes back into the world war ii years that is pushing us back into the interwar years, some of it going all the way back, as far as i know, to 1915 and the u.s. invasion of haiti in that year. it is a very fluid feel as well. i think it is the context with themes that he chooses to focus on that are shaped by the political world, the cultural world, that he was experiencing in the 1920s and 1930s that make this particularly important. the second thing, and i think
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this is kind of a corrupted element to the broader popular views of world war ii, if you think about world war ii, so much of it is about how we understand it and how we think about it, it is shaped by popular culture. as i said, it is the good war. this is the greatest generation. like all truisms, there is a time of truths. it is like a massive, social mobilization that required a men's appetites. something that is almost incomprehensible today. in so many ways, we are 19 from war and its effects on us. in this case, we are fighting nazis. for goodness sakes.
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quite simply, you can could get me off the couch to fight hitler. japanese militarism, fascist ideology, this is a classic good versus evil tale. however, there is another very important element to the story as it applies to roi ottley we be work. is that it used to be it was a catalyst for social change. opening up the fissures in american society. it illuminates the contradictions of the american narratives. you know, i think it carries a profound burden and that this is a republic was established on the highest of ideals. ideals that we have struggled ever since to live up to. there has always been the distance between the ideal of
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american life and the realities of americanism. in the case of world war ii, these contradictions were brought into stark relief. millions of african-americans were denied the basic trappings of american freedoms. in the jim crow south, blacks were forced to endure a white supremacist apparatus of power that had the sanction of federal law. so when the war began, it is easy to say that the majority of americans were ready to march in defense of the republic. but for people who had been denied so much, there was ambivalence and unrest in communities around the country. you have to remember that for many african-americans, world war i was the ultimate test
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case. the war to end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy. african-american leaders before the war urge their readers, urged their followers to support the war effort because they believed that if they fell in with the unity theme of the administration, that they would eventually win their freedom as well. but the postwar period demonstrated exactly the opposite of that. we entered this long period of racial problems, slaughter in places like salsa, east st. louis, chicago, washington dc. new orleans, memphis. when world war ii began, there were those who question the viability of coming out and publicly taking a stand and
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backing the federal government. at the very start of the war. at the same time, black americans began to view their oppressed status in the new political context. as anti-fascism, anti-colonialism, and antiracism mashed into a political program that picked up momentum throughout the war. the piecemeal assault on jim crow deeply to unified commands in the desegregation of american society, and an end to discrimination in employment, education, and the range of public accommodations. black leaders tied southern racism to nazi ideology, specifically to anti-semitism and for a time, jim crow was still back on its heels. at the same time, americans began to see very local
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struggles in the global, internationalist context. they tie their fight to the national liberation movements around the world. 500,000 african-american troops in africa, the pacific, europe, had ringside seats to witness the crumbling of european colonialism. many thousands returned home believing that jim crow would be the next to go. so this, too, was the context for roi ottley's scribblings. he commons frequently about conflicts between the white and black troops, the efforts made by white southern officers to transplant jim crow to european soil, and on the similarities between fascism and southern racism. ottley expressed resentment.
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he felt that he was being pigeonholed as just an african-american journalist. he broke away from the journalistic pack to observe european race relations and to interview colonial officials about their views concerning this coming new world order. he tapped into a growing network of pan african activists that included people like george patton were in the future president of kenya. most black journalists covering the war were primarily concerned with the contributions and the struggles of black tea hot. it is unclear if readers would have been interested in the nuances of european colonial policy. at the same time, as the war ended, european society in shambles, collapsing, ottley's work proves important.
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he continued to travel without pittsburgh courier in 1947 in 1940. this volume, it collects the best of his journalism from this period for the first time. so i think that there are two themes that run through his life and work that make them worth taking note of. his own experiences shaped by the politics of the popular front. and his eyewitness news of politics as welcome as a journalist. he was a great observer bid i don't think that anybody's going to read his work and be dazzled by his style. he is very colloquial and a lot of his writing. at the same time, this is a guy who knew everybody and managed
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to poke his nose at just the right moment over and over again. the second part of this is this black internationalism. historians will wrestle for some time now, i'm afraid, with the ways we think about this period. the way that we conceptualize civil rights struggles. the activism, the emergence of the movement culture during world war ii. it is coming into sharper relief. now, no one life can provide the perfect context for understanding an era. but i think that ottley, who has only appeared as a footnote in our histories, by piecing together his experiences in this critical period, by trying to
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understand his life and work against the backdrop of historical events, we gain an opportunity to think about this political awakening that took place in the 1930s and 40s and the vital international impulse that drove it. thank you. [applause] >> yes, sir. could you please use the microphone. they have asked that anyone that has a question do so. >> here we have a black man working for a white newspaper. the newspaper allows him to write articles which i would assume are supportive of the black position in the army, which was right there in world
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war ii with the discrimination. how does that play out with this audience remark that they agree with him? >> he was national circulation -- it was a small paper comparatively speaking. and i think that in the context of the readership, ottley was preaching to the choir. there is no doubt about it that the people that would've read it -- this was the closest political connection, it was with the cio. and that, you know, the liberal wing of the democratic party -- so they were very much open to what he was writing about. it was really the military censors that had the biggest problems with what he was writing about. there are sections where he actually writes censored across the top of an article that he
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has transcribed in the workbook in the number of entries where he angrily denounces the military censors who refused to allow him to talk about certain things. there were mutinies of black troops because of the treatment. there were conflicts with a lot of southern white soldiers that were actually covered in the british newspapers but were not covered by the american press at all. with the military, they more often than not silenced ottley. usually he would complain about it and usually they would relent. [laughter] it wasn't quite yet known, hot and dry as it could've been. as he often painted in his prose.
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>> ottley was one of the rare people in world war ii [inaudible] >> i think that is one of the most interesting parts of his work. as you will remember, in the book new world coming, there is a chapter on japanese propaganda in black communities. the japanese position themselves in the mid- to late 1930s as people of color who were in solidarity with the oppressed colonials all over the world, and this included black americans. ali was derisive and dismissive of these japanese efforts. but he was also -- he had a warning in these pros.
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there are those who will listen to extreme voices. so you need to moderate the behavior and roll back the racism for the long-term national security health of the country. this is one of the more interesting elements here. even though it is kind of secondary to the broader narrative. it is that he talks a lot about the ways in which we japanese fifth column was attempting to insinuate itself into some of these more marginal communities where there was a lot of anger and mistrust. >> [inaudible question] >> i'm sorry? >> yes, ma'am. >> [inaudible question]
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>> i think that is true. i'm sorry, will you use the microphone? >> the point is well taken. >> she was commenting that we have a lot of this animosity now, and i believe your point was that religion plays a point in the way that people are pitted against one another. >> two questions, as a character, he comes off as a real snob. especially among african-americans do not just. >> there is a superiority type of attitude that he has based upon his own education and his attitudes towards his fellows in harlem, also elsewhere.
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do you find out as well? >> yes, i think that he has -- he is an elitist in many ways. i think that there are some very -- it's not just a kind of character flaw. i think that it has has a lot to do with his upbringing. i think that his parents -- his mother in particular pounded into him, over and over and over again, that you are as good or better than anybody else. you can do anything. you can achieve anything. that is what we proved by being here in this country and your father having achieved what he has achieved. you can do the same thing. i think that there is a little bit of a cultural twist their. he was raised in the caribbean household. i think that this was an immigrant group that was better
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educated. it had experienced living in a society where they had greater independence. that kind of played in his character, and there was this sort of radical individualistic streak in him that if he was told to walk in a straight line, he would be her immediately to the right or left. it just happens over and over again. like i said, it really did rub people the wrong way. >> his contacts with colonial secretaries. belgian and dutch, whoever. how did he get into those spots? there is some privilege of this
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interview of these people. he waited in line, he had appointments. >> partly it was because he was working for pm, which was known in the ministries and information, you know, that were mostly based in europe and in paris at the time that ottley goes there, which was known as a dominantly white paper. and i believe, and this is circumstantial to a certain degree, that they thought he was white. they didn't understand that he was a black newspaper man. i also think that it says a lot about bullheadedness in that he would go and sit in these offices and we sometimes for hours. on a couple of instances, for days until they would speak with him. you know, in the diary, he was
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an inveterate networker. he really was excellent at meeting people who could help him further down the line. he knew certain individuals who were very well-connected in the british government and who paved the way for him to speak to the belgian colonial minister and people like that. i think there is a number of factors that work in his advantage in that respect. >> unfortunately we are out of time. but if you would like to speak more with professor mark huddle, he will be signing copies of his book after the session. i would like to thank you for coming today. >> thank you all very much for coming. i really appreciate it. >> we would like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback.
11:59 pm here's a look at some books are being published this week. and i would like to apologize to every teacher i ever had, my dear as a rookie teacher at northeast tide, tony danza recounts the year that he spent teaching english at philadelphia's largest high school. journalist jeff cohen and john chase report on bravo go to veg and how he misused the state government and was arrested by the fbi. how he talked himself out of the governor's office and into prison. then a first-hand account of the first female class-action lawsuit against her former employer, newsweek. indigo girls revolt. how the women of newsweek sue their bosses and changed workplace. and i am the change, barack obama and the crisis of liberalism, charles kessler examines president obama's political thinking andts

Book TV
CSPAN September 9, 2012 11:15pm-12:00am EDT

Mark Huddle Education. (2012) 2012 Roosevelt Reading Festival Mark Huddle, 'Roi Ottley's World War II The Lost Diary of an African American Journalist.' New.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Harlem 8, Us 7, Europe 7, Washington 3, New York 2, Newsweek 2, Chicago 2, Pittsburgh 2, Amsterdam 2, Ellison 2, Roi Ottley 2, James Monroe 2, Mr. Wright 2, The Pacific 1, Kenya 1, Paris 1, Philadelphia 1, U.s. 1, Spain 1, Haiti 1
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